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2013: The Year In Which I Sewed the Least

31 Dec

For the first time in seven years of blogging, I have no year end recap. I haven’t sewn this little since I was in college. This year was an emotional roller coaster. From the Ravens winning the Superbowl, taking a new job, getting engaged then married within seven weeks to losing my mom within three months of her diagnosis and the Ravens not even making the playoffs for the first time in like five years.  I’m feeling kind of… battered to be honest.

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Over the weekend my friend Liz came over and we started folding fabric. And folded. And folded. While what is on the shelves represents about three bins of fabric, you can see I have many more to go (and two aren’t even pictured)! I’m going to need to buy a second shelf shelf about three feet wide from Costco/ Sam’s Club. And convince Jordan that folding is fun.

Oh, I was in NY for work yesterday and bought a some necktie material at Mood. Yes, I’m going to make neckties again :-)  But, I managed to leave $75 worth of fabric on the train!! After several frantic calls  (starting at 12:30 a.m.) to Amtrak’s lost and found in DC, Baltimore and New York, my bag turned up! Trena’s going to swing by Union Station in Washington and get it for me. I’m considering this my Christmas miracle.

Anywhoo. My dad is here visiting for the holidays and we’re off to the movies then drinks with friends and dinner with more friends. I can’t believe how much my life has changed from this time last year. And, who knows that 2014 has to offer? I’m hoping many more weekends at home with my sewing machine.

Happy New Year my friends.

Sewing Room Installed

14 Dec

In the midst of what is generally accepted to be the worst week of my life, my sewing room furniture was installed. I’d like to also thank each and every one of you who left a comment about my mom. Especially those who have lost a loved one or a mother. Your advice and words of comfort mean a great deal to me. I am incredibly touched that you care about her passing because you care about me (and/ or are not horrible people without a soul).

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I worked from home the last week so it made sense to have the furniture installed while I could be here.  It took two guys about six hours to get the job done. Do you hear angels singing? I do. I was so pleased with the installation, I just walk in the room and stare.  It looks like a little sewing shop!! Like a *real* studio!!

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I’m now able to have all my sewing machines out! Singer 301, blind hemmer, Babylock serger, Brother coverstitch.

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I’ve put the ‘finishing’ machines on the right (blind hemmer and coverstitch) since I won’t use them throughout construction. There’s a little space off the side  on the right for what I hope will be my sewing pattern cabinet or my dress form. I can also keep my folded cutting table along that wall too (or in the closet).

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All my sewing books are now in then bookshelf along with my Singer 221 / Featherweight. I’m going to try displaying it. But, I’m totally freaked out about it getting grimy, etc.

I would like to put a peg board up between the bookshelf and the countertop. I’m saving those empty spaces on the book shelf for plastic bins. I also need the electrician to come out and give me some more outlets. Possibly at countertop level too.

The drawers are empty. Liz and I are going to go out and buy foam core and do some serious fabric folding. The comic book backers won’t really work for the kinds of fabric I have. But, I’m keeping them to do elastics, interfacing, ribbons and other thinner items. It’s tempting to save the drawer space for patterns, but I would like to keep my fabric dust free if possible.

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On the wall below, I am debating a metal shelving station or another IKEA cabinet. I need someplace for my sewing pattern magazines (mostly Burda).

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That’s it! All I moved in were machines and books. There is so much work to be done. I have two old sewing cabinets down in the basement I need to Freecycle. Fabric that needs organizing. Notions that need sorting. It honestly may take a snowstorm for me to really get to this.

Oh, while I use an IKEA piece to hold my patterns currently, it’s gotten a bit wobbly. I did call  the company that makes pattern cabinets for Mcall, Vogue, Butterick (not Simplicity they said). They are so far out of my price range (think $600). That I’m going to start stalking Craigslist and store closings. I found a legal size filing cabinet on craigslist that could also work too. Anyone use a legal cabinet for filing patterns?

Oh, and of course I now realize this installation is going to make it real hard to refinish the floors in my house. Or paint. Doh.

Sewing Room Solution, Part I

1 Dec

Guys!! I was so inspired by your encouragement on the IKEA post I decided to stop by Baltimore’s Second Chance. Second Chance is a salvage warehouse that does workforce development and job training here in the City. When Liz and I went in, we were looking for kitchen cabinets that could be mounted. What I found, was this:

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Beautiful in all it’s formicaness, right? It was a custom desk that was there for $500. I’d mentally budgeted about three times that for my IKEA sewing room fantasy. This one has the wall cabinets I wanted (setting on the desk on the left), plenty of sewing space for my machines: sewing, coverstitch, blind hemmer, and serger. There’s also a ton of deep drawer space too. I was feeling REALLY good walking out of the warehouse!

I went home, measured my guest room. Liz helped my shove everything in to the ‘study’ including the twin bed. Yes, those are all my shoes in the left corner. They got kicked out of the second closet in my bedroom. My fabric that lived in the basement is in the bins.

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When they came to deliver, everything came in just fine. And, because of the orange of the walls and the tint of the floor, the formica isn’t nearly as offensive as I thought it might be!

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Except, for the L-shaped countertop. The countertop is nesting in my dining room for now.

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This 10 foot long long honker was not going up my steps.

The neighborhood handyman is coming out on Monday to mount the cabinets for me (they are setting on top of the desk on the left in the first photo). And, I’ll have him cut the countertop and reassemble it with glue and clamps upstairs.

The room will be a work in progress for a while.

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I *think* I will still put in an IKEA Expedit bookcase in this room for all my Burda magazines. Do you like how the one above used to hold all my sewing supplies and fabric back in 2008? HAHAHAHAHA! I’m happy to say I’ve easily sewn 85 percent of what was on the shelves. I actually only see three unsewn fabrics.

I now have about eight years worth of Burdas that fit perfectly in my Expedit storage system (the purple cubes) and don’t really want to give it up. I need to decide if I’ll move the one from the study (it’s also my desk) or get another one. Plus, I can use empty cubbies for all my sewing books that are in the study and basement.

The drawers pull out REALLY far, are super sturdy and very deep. I assumed I would not store fabric in there. But, after some suggestions on Facebook, I’ll be looking for cardboard that I can cut to width and store fabric upright — like files.

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I’ll need to store my cutting table somewhere too — probably the closet in the guest room. Right now it holds my formal dresses and vintage clothing. And, I might make one of the table tops an ironing station so I don’t have to pull out a separate ironing board. I’ll also want a peg board between the desk and the wall cabinets. So many things to think about! I’m really happy to make a real investment in my sewing space. Clearly, we’re not moving anytime soon! Stay tuned :-)

Sewing Room Ideas from IKEA

25 Nov

As I have blathered on about here, I am currently without a real sewing room. So far, everything is mushed in my guest room (at some point to be sewing room).

While going through IKEA yesterday, I was totally inspired by this set up from the Besta collection (that’s my 5 foot tall friend standing for reference)

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Doesn’t that look like it could totally work? I’d never really thought about hanging cabinets in my sewing room, but it would be a terrific use of space. This could be one side of the room and the other side would have sewing tables and my cutting table in the middle.

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Fantasies, all! But, it at least has me thinking about how I want the room to take shape. And, that my ‘solution’ doesn’t need to be as simple as tables from Costco and some shelves. I really like the idea of turning that room in to a real creative sewing space!

Burda Magazine 12-2010 No. 102: Alexis Carrington Dress

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There are several patterns from Burda I’ve had my eye on for years and years.  This wrap dress with the drapey sleeves is one such. I sewed it way back in August to wear on my dativersary. But, it seemed too late fall for what ended up being a warm summer night. Plus, I thought it was more mid 80s corporate takeover than va va voom.

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I meant to wear it and take some photos before two months passed. But, wonderful and terrible things happened at the same time and now I’m just getting around to actually wearing it and taking pictures!

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I was drawn to the drapey sleeves and the wrap style (totally flattering on me) and the relatively straight skirt.

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For this dress, I went in to the Carol Collection and chose these blue with purple maple leaf motif. Do you like that my dress has maple leaves and there are maple leaves on the ground? Do you? Yes? The fabric is a polyester print with a thick silky hand (confirmed by my burn test).

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It’s totally Alexis Carrington from Dallas, no? I also considered naming it the Oh, Canada Dress by virtue of the maple leaves.  I loves it!

I didn’t change too much here. I made a FBA (and of course forgot to make the same adjustment to the facing). Yep. I  sewed the facing too. I don’t know why I’m not hating facings like I used to. On this, I love the smooth and firmness of the wrap. I reinforced the neckline, armholes and waist for support.

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The hems on the sleeves and skirt are finished on my blind hemmer

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I don’t have terribly much to say other than I really love this dress. You’ll never find something like this in the store. And, it’s somehow ‘dressier’ than my other work dresses.

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I don’t think my sleeves look anything like the draft nor the model’s. Mine don’t seem quite drapey enough.

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And, the obligatory photo of the back

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Nice pattern. Will def be making it again in the future. Especially since it has sleeves!

Office Valet

4 Nov

Youse Guuuuuyyyyyssss!!!!

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This is an Office Valet. I’ve wanted one for the last year. When I was dropping Trena’s serger off at ‘THE’ repair shop, they had this one on sale. For $25. And, they delivered it to my house.

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Best of all? It’s a Gingher branded product. I didn’t even know they were based in Pennsylvania. Scranton. Heh. Can you hear Scranton without thinking about the US version of The Office? I assume Gingher gave them out to companies who sold their product.

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I’ll use it for guests since my hall closet is stuffed with all my coats (and some new additions from my new housemate)

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I spotted one of these at a city government building back in April and immediately started searching for them on line. They were popping up online. For $225. I tried to get the agency to surplus it to me. They were not having it. So, big old SCORE for ME!

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Things are moving along here at Casa Rosensamuelfeld. Still looks like a hoarder house as we merge two households.  There is way more laundry now and the food bill has doubled… In (my) big news, I decided not to change my name. I tried out a second last name for three weeks and it just seemed strange to me. Maybe because I married older. Maybe because it was the name I was born with and it felt so odd to be referred to by a different name. The Husband was like, ‘it’s your name. Do you want you want. I wouldn’t want to change my name.’ I’m attached to my name not just because it’s mine. But, also because it’s a very British name. And, Jamaica (my father’s home country) was a UK territory.  My mom’s maiden name is a very Scottish name. Which speaks to Grenada being settled by the Scots. My last name to me speaks to our history as Caribbean people. So, I kept it.  Trust, I wont’ be upset by being referred to as Mrs. R. I think it’s cute. But, legally, professionally and mostly socially, I’m keeping my name. Plus, I have years and years to change my mind again :-)

Wedding Crafts

30 Oct

Just because I sew, doesn’t mean I ‘craft’. I’m not sure when it became a ‘thing’ to have a crafty DIY wedding, but after reading wedding blogs and message boards, it’s clear to me that it’s the current trend. Maybe it’s always been a thing? After having spent many family weddings bagging candy or rice or bubble blowing kits (or serving food), I SWORE I wasn’t going to get sucked into the vortex of making ‘stuff’ for my 15 person wedding planned in six weeks. I just wanted to walk in and everything be ‘done’. But, Pinterest and the proliferation of wedding blogging sucked me in. I spent several nights at A.C. Moore and Michael’s getting craft supplies and even more nights crafting.

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While our wedding was moved up, I wanted to make sure it felt like a thoughtful/ not rushed service. Also, I’m a photo nut and wanted to make sure there were lots of details for our photographer to capture.

We used Scrabble as the motif in three of our projects. My parents and I used to play Scrabble weekly after church. My parents love that game. I gave them the nice anniversary edition a few years ago. And, the first time Jordan met my dad (you know, back when I didn’t give him a title. Just, ‘Dad, this is Jordan’), we played Scrabble together. Jordan, to be polite, kicked our collective butts. He told me he wasn’t very good at it because his Mom and brother used to play and beat him regularly. Turns out his brother and mom are Scrabble fiends.

I also liked the idea of using ‘words’ since I was a journalism major and he was a creative writing major. Yo, I found a hetero, alpha, male who likes the theater and considers Le Mis his favorite musical. #MarryHim #AlreadyDid

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The first big craft was this banner we had our guests hold up for our ‘announcement’ photo. I totally got the idea off of Pinterest. I used thin plywood tiles at $1.99 from A.C. Moore , varnished them for color accuracy (I don’t know why. Varnish is so not needed. I did it because I am a glutton for punishment) . I also modgepodged them in my living room. I had to crate Linus because he wanted to be in everything I was working on. The letter templates and directions are from here.

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We also made these seat names for folks using scrabble tiles. Mine was ‘bride’ and his was ‘groom’. Just a glue gun and tiles from ebay and etsy. There were some glue gun injuries. That stuff BURNS. Most of our guests left theirs behind. That’s okay. I’m going to make them take them at our post-wedding party. I’m using mine for a paperweight in my office.

Our final Scrabble themed item were our favors. I found the idea at Project Wedding. I like how I think favors are a total waste of time and money. Yet, I still spent two days making them!

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The only thing different I did was mod podging the tops and just printing our tags rather than letter pressing them.

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Crazy Saturday night plans.

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I recruited Liz to do most of the work with me while my then fiance was in Philadelphia for his bachelor weekend. As you can see, tulle for my veil and vodka for sustenance.

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Non Scrabble related, we did a L-O-V-E sign by painting these wood letters in our wedding colors. I can’t even tell you how hard I resisted having ‘colors’. But, I kept getting asked by the florist, guests, the planner, etc. Finally, I just settled on pastel versions of the wedding invitation (which mirrored the website).

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This photo is super backlit. But, you get the gist.

Liz, because she’s crazy and actually crafty, continued crafting after I left for Florida. She made these incredibly cute signs for the wedding that we used in our pro photos. The wait for pro photos is TERRIBLE. I mean, we were lucky to get a little teaser within 48 hours. But, the next four weeks will try my patience!

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The other nice thing we did was ship all this stuff to Florida. Along with my shoes, other props (vintage cameras), the programs, gifts for my parents — all of it went via Fed Ex. I just schlepped my dress. Which, I would have mailed but didn’t get it back in enough time to make the shipment.

China Lace Dresses

27 Oct

I had a stack of China related posts ready to write while I was there. But, then things got c-r-a-z-y.  One thing I wanted to talk about were the custom clothes I had made in China. I had two suits, four shirts made, but I was really excited about these lace dresses.

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As you may recall, I spotted these laces while in China at the Silk Bund Spinning Market. I paid about$15 usd a yard for them and was feeling a little taken to the cleaners. But, I felt better after spotting the same lace in white in Xiamen and they were asking double the price before negotiating. I felt especially good after coming back from China and finding these laces at A Fabric Place for $85 to $110 a yard.

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Anywhoo, I decided I wanted to have dresses made rather than sew them myself when I got home. I went online and picked these two styles for inspiration.

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Valentino

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Dolce and Gabbana ($3,500)

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Second view of DG dress

I’ve never really sewn with lace before and wasn’t all that amped to try anytime soon. So, going to a tailor to have them made in China would also be part of the experience. I also decided to wait until Xiamen instead of Shanghai because of the prices. I knew the labor costs would be half since Xiamen isn’t saturated with Westerners having clothes made.

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In Xiamen one of our guides, found a brother, sister and mom  who worked out of their home. I showed them the dresses on my iPad and from the September editions of Vogue magazine. They took my measurements and got to work.

Essentially, there is no pattern. They marked my hip, waist and bust measurements right on the fabric.

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From there, they draft, again, on the fabric.

If you can imagine, they had appliqued the neckline lace. Something, I just would not have the patience to do.

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I went in for about two fittings on the three dresses and here are the results. I had the cream and purple made into the Valentino cap sleeve style. I asked for a side zipper because I didn’t want to ruin the lines of the lace.

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I always knew I wanted to wear the cream dress for our rehearsal / welcome dinner. And, Liz looked so cute in the purple version, that she wore it that night too.

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Now, on me the cream lace dress is about four inches too long. It would be better just above my knee. The purple proportions are fine.

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I’m not tall (or thin) enough to get away with this middy look.

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I thought about hacking some off the bottom and reapplying the lace. But, I’m not going to do that.

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And, I think it looks prettier with the lace detail (unlike above where it’s turned under). I’m also not going to cut it at the waist, shorten from there, and sew it back. It’s just not in me.

Anywho, Liz wore the purple version that night and looked smashing.

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I haven’t gotten to wear the red one yet. Man, red takes terrible pictures.  We just finalized details for a post-wedding party his parents are hosting. I thought about wearing it then, but it seems a little fancy for a Sunday afternoon gig.

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Overall, I am thrilled with the dresses. They are really beautifully made and I wouldn’t have gotten around to sewing them any time soon. Plus, it was an experience having someone else interpret your idea of a dress. I think being a sewist myself made me super patient with the process. I also knew I needed to give them photos of what I wanted and NOT deviate. Between the language barrier and time, not having a photo is the way to get what you don’t want.

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My interpreter this year, Ashley (below)  was fascinated by the whole process. But, she too could not understand why I would want to get dresses made when there are H&M and other stores all over China. I also got to bore her pants of with wedding details. Weddings are BIG business in China. Since I was always online ordering stuff for the wedding, she was my one woman focus group.

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What is different this year, is she didn’t think I paid too much. Three years ago, my interpreters thought my custom clothes were expensive. But, the economy in China has changed since then and this didn’t seem too high to her.

I’ll post about the suits and shirts another time, I think this post is long enough!

Altering A Bra

18 Oct

Everyone, thank you for the support, prayers and congratulations. My heart is full. I haven’t been sewing (except for my veil). In fact, I’ve loaned my Babylock serger to Trena while hers is being serviced. I currently have no place to sew as my sewing room is in the process of relocating from the basement to the former guest bedroom. And, this new husband is still moving in. My kingdom for a clear space in my house!!

I don’t want to bore your pants off with wedding stuff.  I realize  wedding planning is  kind of only interesting to the person who got married and their mother. So, here’s a sort of sewing related but wedding related post :-)  I thought I’d show a quick post on the alterations I needed for my corset

My dress had a crazy low back.  I was partly sold on this dress because I thought it made my butt look pretty good and me skinny. Well, slimmer. If you order in the store it can take 8 – 12 weeks. Online, two days.

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It was also also super low in the front. You can see the store bra peeking on the right. And serious (for me) cleavage! Also, the DB bra was a band size too big and the cups one size too small. I look like I have flapjacks in there. Imagine the clerk trying to tell me I could just sew in some cups and skip a bra. Umm, no.

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I decided to go to Bare Necessities in Baltimore County to buy a low back bridal bra ($70). But, it still wasn’t low enough at the front OR the back. Color me surprised when the consultant told me they could alter my bra.

So, I took this dress with me to my friend Liliya (who gifted my dress alterations and had it ready in a seriously fast ONE WEEK). She marked up my new bra with pins. The store needed to remove five (!!) rows of hook and eye! I dropped off the bra and came back a week before the wedding.

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In addition, the front cups needed to be shortened another 3/4 of an inch.

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And, since the support from the back band would be reduced, I needed darts at the side to make the corset snug up against me.

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When I got back to Bare Essentials to try on the bra, I was thrilled to find that Kelly in alterations was a blog reader! She reminded me about her comment on an old post and I totally remembered. Who knew good lingerie stores do alterations!?!

She did a ROCK STAR job on this bra!!!  You can’t even tell it’s been sliced and diced. Here’s me trying on the altered version in the store. I was feeling supa cute after three weeks of strict Dukan Dieting. Yes, I became a bridal dieter and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. My breath was terrible, I was irritable and I had dreams of cold glasses of reisling. I was so very sick of tofu and fish. Like, I can’t even look at fish right now without shuddering. But, I dropped the weight and felt GREAT on my wedding day.  I have since resumed my life of fried food, cheese, wine and carbohydrates.

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I can’t recommend to you enough the power of a good bra. The right fit enhanced my curves and is super comfortable even with all the boning from top to bottom. Plus, I can wear this bra with other dresses I’ve avoided in the past because I didn’t have a law back bra! Oh, I also have lots of lingerie inspiration from my two visits to Bare Necessities.

Oh, I am mad at myself for buying this $28 nonsense, because I am a #sucker.  I didn’t even wear it. But, I was in the bridal daze and somehow, it seemed a reasonable amount of money for a 1/4 yard of stretch lace.

Final thought, complaints on wedding dress sizing. <rant> I wish people would get over the number. I bought a size 14 dress. Which, conveniently coordinates with my sewing pattern size. I didn’t bat an eye. Yet, all over wedding message boards people complain about Bridal Sizing and how everything is smaller. No, it’s not. It’s just a number people! Get the size that fits instead of complaining about the number. The number is just a guideline to get you into something that might be close to fitting. It’s NOT “bridal sizing”.  It’s the pattern size. And, it’s the pattern size because most of the dresses are made-to-order. And, it’s just a number. What size is it? It’s YOUR size. Also, amazing how everyone is willing and expects to get alteration on a wedding dress to fit. But, complain about how other clothes fit in the store and how they are ‘cut funny’ when they don’t fit one individual’s body. They fit somebody correctly (the fit model). I wish more people realized clothes weren’t made for YOU. And, alterations became an expected expense to have clothes that fit well. </rant>

The Final Countdown

11 Oct

My friends, I bought my wedding dress. From David’s Bridal. Yes. Davids. Bridal.

I had a specific style of dress in mind to make. — if I was going to make a dress. I wanted to go with a 1960s silhouette. I’d pinned a bunch of dresses and patterns

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and general inspiration around this era well before I was officially engaged.

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I’d also gone to David’s Bridal with a friend to get a sense of the sillouette I wanted. I like this dress. I thought it was slimming, but I was going to make my own dress.

Well, two days after official engagement, my mother, the Colonel, my best friend, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That’s why I was in Florida before China. I found out on Monday evening and flew to Florida on Tuesday morning. The prognosis is… really really terrible.  And, it’s why I have had very little to say the last month.

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So, Jordan and I decided to get married sooner rather than later. We originally were thinking August / October 2014.  But, I just can’t get married without my mom there.  So, I ordered the dress online and it arrived two days later.  I will never, ever make fun of David’s Bridal again.

In the meantime, I am accepting and encouraging all prayers aimed at my mom. Because, at this point, it will take a miracle.